Six days post surgery.
I spent the first 24 hours post surgery in the hospital. The total recovery period in my case was five days. I am on day six today. While I was laying in bed I was given 3 rounds of antibiotics and offered more pain meds than I could imagine taking. One nurse mentioned between her teeth that I am given a lot of antibiotics which means that when I go home I should take a lot of probiotic supplements and vitamin C. No one else, including my doctor, mentioned anything about that, and I got the feeling that the nurse was “over-stepping” her boundaries. The first drink I was offered when I came back into my room after the surgery was Sierra Mist. I opted instead for the homemade broth my friend brought me.
It is not my purpose here to criticize the medical establishment. Indeed, I am very grateful for their efficiency, professionalism, and knowledge. If this happened even fifty years ago the chances of complications would have been much, much greater. However, it does amaze me how little emphasis the medical field continues to put on proper nutrition and its vital role in the human body. I could have eaten a burger from Carl’s Junior three hours after the surgery and no one would have stopped me. I wont even mention the hospital food! Ok, just once: the first meal they brought me was spaghetti and bread sticks with a side of grey green beans, and conventional apple juice to drink.
Q & A
I will now answer a few questions that came up through this process for both me and my friends. I am posting the answers here in an attempt to bring clarity to certain issues surrounding the appendix that seem to be universally confusing. If you disagree with any of my statements, or would like to share your own experience/thoughts, please feel free to comment. This blog is a platform for learning and sharing information.
What is the Appendix?
The appendix is a small, closed tube the size of you pinky finger. It attaches to the beginning of your large intestine. It is open at the end that connects to the large intestine and closed at the other end. Material can move in and out of the appendix, but it has nowhere to go.
What Causes Appendicitis?
Some of you have asked me if I know what might have caused my appendix to become inflamed.
A major factor for me was constipation. As a teenager as well as in my early 20’s, I didn’t eat a very healthy diet. I consumed a lot of processed flour, sugar, and sodas. It was not until two years ago that I began improving my diet; but the damage had been done.
Another factor is holding it in when you really need to go to the bathroom. I have refused to have a bowel movement when I am working many times. I considered it to be unprofessional and awkward. The result is the inflamed, gassy, bloated intestine, leaking fecal matter into the appendix. I am sorry if this is a rather unflattering exposé .
For some people, bacterial and viral infections in the digestive tract can lead to swelling of the lymph nodes, which squeeze the appendix and cause obstruction. Traumatic injury to the abdomen may also lead to the appendicitis. In some cases it can also be the result of a genetic predisposition.
I believe I have been the victim of at least three of the factors that may have caused my acute appendicitis. Looking back, I wish someone would have told me that the consequences of my behavior would result in having an organ yanked out of my body. But I was young and believed I was indestructible.
Is the Appendix Entirely Useless?
Most of us are routinely told by the medical establishment that the appendix is a vestigial, a.k.a. useless, organ, a remnant from our evolutionary past. In fact, a lot of people have it removed before they take off for extensive traveling and visits to foreign countries just to avoid possible complications. Before this surgery, I, like many others, had no idea if the appendix served any function or not. But, after having it removed, I got curious and did some research. I found this article from the Scientific American that explores the important role that the appendix plays in the body.
For years, the appendix was credited with very little physiological function. We now know, however, that the appendix serves an important role in the fetus and in young adults. Endocrine cells appear in the appendix of the human fetus at around the 11th week of development. These endocrine cells of the fetal appendix have been shown to produce various biogenic amines and peptide hormones, compounds that assist with various biological control (homeostatic) mechanisms. There had been little prior evidence of this or any other role of the appendix in animal research, because the appendix does not exist in domestic mammals. Doctor Loren Martin Professor of Physiology at the Oklahoma State University
Dr. Loren Martin argues that appendix removal ought to be done on less of a precautionary basis because the appendix can be successfully transplanted into the urinary tract to rebuild the sphincter muscle and reconstruct a functional bladder.
Recent studies are also confirming that the appendix encourages and supports healthy bacteria in the gut. In fact a healthy appendix is populated by a lot of probiotics that guard the gut, ready to jump in to help at any signs of bacterial infection, diarrhea, or an intense treatment with antibiotics says William Parker PhD, assistant professor of experimental surgery at Duke University Medical Center.
The appendix does not only support the gut flora it is also rich in infection fighting lymphoid cells which helps support the immune system.
In this context, the function of the appendix appears to be to expose white blood cells to the wide variety of antigens, or foreign substances, present in the gastrointestinal tract. Thus, the appendix probably helps suppress potentially destructive humoral (blood- and lymph-borne) antibody responses while promoting local immunity. The appendix – like tiny structures called Peyer’s patches in other areas of the gastrointestinal tract – rakes up antigenes from the contents of the intestines and reacts to the contents. This local immune system plays a vital role in the physiological immune response and in the control of food, drug, microbial, or viral antigens. Doctor Loren Martin Professor of Physiology at the Oklahoma University
The appendix doesn’t seem to be as useless as some medical experts might lead us to believe. Yet when it is inflamed and infected the appendix ceases to play the important role that it was designed for and it begins instead to leech infection into your body. I am not speaking against having you appendix removed when it is infected. However I am speaking against having your appendix removed for prophylactic reasons. Some doctors will remove it for precautionary measures while they are preforming other surgical procedures. When a doctor asks you if you would prefer to have your healthy appendix removed be informed and know what you are choosing to live without.
Even if you are like me and you don’t have an appendix anymore it is important to know what roles it played in your body and how to aid your body in compensating for the loss. In my case I will be supplementing with a lot more lacto-fermeted foods and probiotics. I will also try to keep up with some of the research on this particular topic to find out if there are new discoveries related to the loss of the appendix I should know about.
Now at twenty six I feel more vulnerable than ever. This surgery was a good reminder that the human body is highly sensitive and needs to be handled with a lot of care. It is an incredibly humbling experience when your body is communicating that one of your organs is in distress and the only thing you can do is to have it removed. I am grateful the surgery went so well and we got the inflamed appendicitis before it ruptured but I am also aware of the huge physical and emotional stress I put my body through. Part of me feels extremely overwhelmed with the task of recovery and readjustment my body is going through. For this reason I am trying to take one day at a time and really listen to what my body needs. It is one of the most valuable and fragile assets we, human beings, have.
To read part two and an update a year later go here.